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From Bauhaus to Our House

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  2,576 Ratings  ·  205 Reviews
Tom Wolfe, "America's most skillful satirist" (The Atlantic Monthly), examines the strange saga of American architecture in this sequel to The Painted Word, From Bauhaus to Our House.
Paperback, 111 pages
Published November 24th 2009 by Picador USA (first published 1981)
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Mark Taylor
The funny thing about Tom Wolfe is that for all of the hip edginess of his writing style, he’s actually a square. His writings were revolutionary, as he was one of the founders of New Journalism, but his own personal outlook is quite conservative. Wolfe may have gone along on a bus trip with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, but he wasn’t joining them for their LSD trips. Wolfe was always something of an outsider, and this made him one of the great chroniclers of the 1960’s and 1970’s, able to ...more
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
The next time someone tells me modern architecture is perfectly sane, perfectly A-OK, I’m going to laugh and slap them with this book. (Very bourgeois of me, I know.)
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Bauhaus school stripped away all tradition in the name Socialism, creating the Modernist schools and mass housing for the prols. Many of our council/ public housing horrors can laid at Bauhaus's door- howling and moaning. The blocks of glass and steel, the grey and white furnishings and interiors that we inhabit as workplaces, we can thank them for these as well.

This is Tom Wolfe, biting, sarcastic and cutting through to the core.
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the first Tom Wolfe book I've read, and it's an absolute hoot. Wolfe is opinionated, caustic, funny, and completely irreverent - the perfect person to write a short and never-dull book on that unclad emperor, modern architecture. This book is for everyone who's ever wondered why, even though everyone hates modern architecture, we're all continuously forced first to pay for it and then to look at at it.
Wolfe writes an interesting, hilarious, and opinionated account of how we ended up with all Those Buildings, i.e. those concrete boxes that look like factories that everyone understands are "art" but secretly thinks are really ugly. My architecture knowledge is pretty much limited to recognizing that architects design bafflingly expensive, utilitarian chairs (how bourgeois of me!) and that "Eero" and "Saarinen" are frequent answers to New York Times crossword puzzle clues. As a lay person, I enj ...more
I'm very interested in the question of why the richest and most powerful civilization in human history has decided to create the ugliest and most hateful architectural landscape imaginable, despite having the power to easily make what people enjoy and find pleasing. Tom Wolfe sees the same problem and identifies its roots in the emergence of a number of "anti-bourgeois" schools of architectural thought that emerged in Europe in the aftermath of WWI. Premiere among them was the Bauhaus School, wh ...more
Jun 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wolfe likes exuberance. He doesn't like restraint and purity. So he criticizes early and mid-century modern architecture and applauds those who resisted the glass box in favor of expressive and exuberant designs--like Eero Saarinen. Wolfe's most interesting claim is that the motivation for architectural modernism was despair after the first world war and the desire to create a new society from scratch, since the old one had been destroyed. But that rationale made no sense in America, which was u ...more
Christina Baehr
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Laugh-out-loud funny nonfiction romp about the bigoted world of 20th century architecture. Got it from the library, devoured it, handed it to my husband, then he read it aloud to me over a couple of evenings. It's a case study of how a small, prescriptivist art clique with enough snobbery and chutzpah was able to conquer and dominate their cashed-up patrons and make them pay for buildings they hated without ever questioning their authority. My favourite story was how the actual *workers* were th ...more
In which Tom Wolfe rips the modern and post modernists a new one with his usual pluck and verve. Wolfe cannot get beyond his American disgust for the iconoclasts, who tore down traditional architecture in America for no good reason. His summary of the Europeans seems, from my limited knowledge of them, accurate, and his description is at once funny and painful—painful in the sense of regret for the ugliness that has been raised on the American landscape for decades as a result. This historical b ...more
Tom Wolfe's short work, From Bauhaus to Our House, is little more than a screed against the excesses of modern architecture. While agreeing with many of his conclusions, I found the style and tone of the book to be inappropriate for the purpose of serious art/architecture criticism. Written in 1981, it seems dated with a quarter century of architectural progress having occurred since it was published. There are references to other art forms, music in particular, that demonstrate an unfamiliarity ...more
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
Somebody mentioned this on Facebook recently, and I (having some interest in domestic architecture) thought "ooh, sounds interesting" and headed for the library.

Alas, the title is distinctly misleading; the book is not at all about domestic architecture. It is about modern architecture in general, from the Bauhaus onwards, with particular attention to America. And, since the author dislikes modern architecture and has no patience for the theories behind it, it is also a fairly scathing critique
Aug 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a hilarious demolition job. It raises the mystifying question of how a small number of European architects from the 1920s managed to turn their field of work into a religion replete with dogma. It also looks at some of the devastating effects Bauhaus has had on urban planning and housing projects. In a way, Wolfe's criticism could have been even harsher. That is especially true of the figue of Le Corbusier – a man who would have torn down half of Paris if only they'd let him and who ...more
Sandra Schmitz
Jul 07, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An accessible and brief history of Modern architecture. Laced with cynicism and sarcasm, this is not an objective history but one written through the lens of Wolfe's frustration with 20th century architectural trends. Having studied this period in architectural history, I appreciated the author's biting wit and emphasis on characterizing the architects themselves rather than their designs, but would not recommend the book to someone unfamiliar with the key players in Modern architecture.
Vintage Wolfe. We discern the 'zing' that characterises his later work. Perforce, no dialogue - Wolfe's usual special gift to readers - but delightful sneers galore as he deconstructs the deconstruction imposed by 'modern' architecture of good taste, comfort and pleasure.
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-owned
As always, Tom Wolfe's voice is smarmy yet sharp (a tough act to pull off), and infinitely readable, even when I don't entirely agree with his commentary. And, as always, he walks the fine line between iconoclast and weirdly conservative or even anti-intellectual (even as he laments in the pages of this book being labeled a "pop" writer). His take-down of the blocky, plain, steel and glass box style of architecture spawned from the International Style is funny and sometimes right-on-the-mark, wh ...more
Joni Baboci
Wolfe shoots the architect of the age off the pedestal with humor. He makes a dramatic situation funny and distills the whole of architectural history, making it human and identifiable with.

The book is basically concerned with american architecture - and how in the pre-WWII era the infusion of banished or fleeing European architects stopped the evolution of what american architecture could have been in its tracks. On the way Wolfe also does a great job of distilling the ideas of the different a
Edmund Davis-Quinn
I just finished Tom Wolfe's excellent "From Bauhaus to Our House." And I wonder with the Bauhaus and modern architecture calling itself "non bourgeois", is there anything more bourgeois than modern architecture and the Barcelona chair?

I didn't like it as much this time as previous readings, probably the fourth time I've read it. But, there is something incredibly elitist about academies and art. True in poetry, art, writing and music.

In the internet age, we are entering a time of incredible wei
Nearly thirty years ago, Tom Wolfe put the architectural world in a tizzy when he published this essay attacking modern architecture.

Now, I'm not a big fan of glass & steel & concrete office buildings, but Wolfe is absolutely virulent on the subject. And therein lies the rub. He detests Bauhaus-inspired work so much that he has no perspective. He is guilty of the same pretentiousness and arrogance of which he accuses the architects whom he dislikes.

There is a great deal to be said agains
May 17, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short and entertaining history of the modern architecture movement, though accuracy may not be 100% in his telling. However, it's fun to read someone lambasting a movement that completely took over architecture (especially in America). I wonder what Wolfe would have to say about the current state of architecture: Gehry, Hadid, Liebeskind...the absurd grand scale sculpture-buildings sans-context that are passing as the epitome of architectural prowess...sure makes me miss Louis Sullivan and FLW ...more
Jesús de la Garza
Primer libro del año. Tom Wolfe, siempre ácido y crítico, vuelve a sorprenderme con su humor.
From Buahaus to Our House relata el surgimiento y la evolución de la arquitectura moderna, todo narrado de la forma más cómica y cruda posible.
Le Corbusier, Mies Van der Rohe y Walter Gropious son sólo algunos nombres que no escapan de la pluma de Wolfe.
Thomas Wolf
A humorous critique of 20th century architecture. the first half was enlightening to those of us who had never thought about the herd mentality in architectural design. The last half added little new.
Carrie Cardona
Sep 16, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book gets half a star for showing a surface understanding of architectural history, theory, and education. The second half star is for getting away with publishing an entire book full of sarcastic ramblings.
Douglas Wilson
Feb 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: culture-studies
Jun 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: art, design-and-decor
I'm sure this is the wittiest book about 20th Century architecture I will ever read.
Paul Westwood
Aug 14, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books
This is an odd one for me to review because I know nothing about architecture and so didn't really know anything about the architects or the movements he talked about in the book. I picked it up because of the author rather than the subject matter.
So it's essentially a long, verbose rant about Wolfe's dislike of modern architecture. He starts with the Bauhaus movement and what that stood for and then takes us through modern history explaining how the tenets of that original movement have been f
Brian Kovesci
I've read works by Tom Wolfe before, this one is different. He took issues personally.

His rage is rather interesting since he has such harsh half-informed options on classical, modern and post-modern architecture come from a casual observer/journalist perspective. Tom Wolfe is not an architect. I've also read books about classic and modern architecture, and I'm really not sure where his white hot rage stems from. Name calling and hissy fits sprinkle this book in which he crucifies Walter Gropius
Desirée Matta
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arch-urb
As a architecture and urbanism student we hear a lot about how modernism changed architecture on its chore and how all past styles turned into history. Tom Wolfe gives another view into the changing process that we do not see inside the academy. The White Men are gods among us students and there wasn't a clear explanation about how it all happened.
This book reveals another side I loved to see, how they had failures and most of the modern architects haven't even had a lot of built projects before
Sarah Adams
Oct 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short and scathing, Tom Wolfe writes a witty critique on the 20th century's architecture movements.
I always felt there was an empty, boring, soul-less look to most buildings from the 50s - 70s in America. I never really got why we moved to low ceilings and small windows. Well now I have a list of architects to blame.

I studied industrial design in undergrad, so most of the names and movements were familiar to me, though I was more familiar with their smaller scale work.

Also the critique of the
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Tom Wolfe is really great at making a big fuss without saying much. At least in the first half of the book. It's like a big kerfuffley swarm of words with little bits of thought floating around somewhere in there. Wading through it can be a little tedious. Often, I also have completely opposite taste in buildings. About half the time he would mock a design with scorn, and I'd look it up and find myself delighted by it.

The second half pulls together a little more when he focuses on the different
R Fontaine
Jun 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: art-arts, non-fiction
Written in 1981,this seems to chronicle a crossover from the socialist bound thinking architects of the Corbusier era to the tentatively aggressive ( very tentatively aggressive) American architects who had to overcome the dogma’s, the dictates, of the college intellectual regimes to truly express the architecture of America.
The creative constipation of the international architects blinded as they were by an almost imploded Europe trying to recover from the dual impact of WW1 & II and the fe
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Goodreads Librari...: This topic has been closed to new comments. Missing Cover 7 17 Jun 16, 2018 05:30PM  
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Wolfe was educated at Washington and Lee Universities and also at Yale, where he received a PhD in American studies.

Tom Wolfe spent his early days as a Washington Post beat reporter, where his free-association, onomatopoetic style would later become the trademark of New Journalism. In books such as The Electric Koolaid Acid Test, The Right Stuff, and The Bonfire of the Vanities, Wolfe delves into
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“They became desperate for an antidote, such as coziness & color. They tried to bury the obligatory white sofas under Thai-silk throw pillows of every rebellious, iridescent shade of Magenta, pink, and tropical green imaginable. But the architect returned, as he always does, like the conscience of a Calvinist, and he lectured them and hectored them and chucked the shimmering little sweet things out.” 10 likes
“Le Corbusier was the sort of relentlessly rational intellectual that only France loves wholeheartedly, the logician who flies higher and higher in ever-decreasing concentric circles until, with one last, utterly inevitable induction, he disappears up his own fundamental aperture and emerges in the fourth dimension as a needle-thin umber bird.” 7 likes
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